Methods: The evaluation uses an experimental design to develop intention-to-treat (ITT) and treatment-on-treated (TOT) estimates of the effects of subsidized guardianship on permanency outcomes for children in kinship foster care in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Administrative data on outcomes are compared for all 320 children randomized in the demonstration using logistic and two-stage-least-squares regression, and survey data are compared for the 263 children whose caregivers were interviewed. Children in the comparison group received the “regular services” for which they were eligible, including long-term relative foster care and the full range of permanency options in effect in Milwaukee County prior to January 2006. Children in the intervention group were offered the additional option of subsidized guardianship. Because the caregivers of only two-thirds of the children in the intervention group reported receiving information about the new subsidized guardianship option, the study reports both the ITT estimates, in which all subjects are analyzed as if they received the treatment to which they were assigned, and TOT estimates, in which random assignment is used as a instrumental variable to obtain estimates of the average intervention effect for those who actually received the intended treatment.
Results: The ITT results are that children assigned to the intervention group were significantly less likely than the control group to remain in long-term foster care (41% v. 61%), more likely to exit to permanent homes (59% v. 39%), to experience shorter average durations of foster care (377 days v. 453 days), and to consume fewer foster care dollars per child ($7,948 v. $10,289). The TOT results show the same directional impacts at greater magnitudes of difference.
Conclusions and Implications: The interim results for the Wisconsin Demonstration strengthen the external validity of Illinois' earlier findings on the efficacy of subsidized guardianship in boosting permanency outcomes at lesser cost than retaining children in long-term foster care. These results fortify the evidence-base for the creation of a federal guardianship assistance program as proposed in the Kinship Caregiver Support Acts introduced in the House (H.R. 2188) and Senate (S. 661).